brain fog | Integrative functional medicine blog

Are those mysterious unexplained symptoms really an autoimmune disease?








Do you have mysterious health symptoms — such as fatigue, pain, brain fog, or unexplained weight gain?

These issues can often rob you of your quality of life.
Are traditional lab tests and doctors saying nothing is wrong with you? Or maybe doctors tell you your chronic symptoms are depression and you need an antidepressant. Maybe you’ve even been accused of complaining too much.

It’s very sad, but I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a patient tell me that a doctor told them…
”it’s all in your head.” Are you kidding me?!!! That is terrible!

Most people know when something is wrong with them, even if lab tests come back normal and doctors say you’re fine. They just might not know whats wrong with them.

This is because the standard health care model does not screen for autoimmunity — a disorder than occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys your own tissue. You can suffer from symptoms of undiagnosed autoimmunity for years or even decades before it is severe enough to be diagnosed and treated in the conventional medical model.

You have probably heard me say this before, but I will say it again. I have patients that are told by doctors all the time to wait until their symptoms get bad enough and then they will do something about it. This is when patients lab tests results are in what we call the “suboptimal” or “subclinical” range.

An easy example is with anemia. A common % transferrin saturation range is from 15 - 50. So if a women gets her iron levels tested and it comes back at a 16 or 17 they say you are normal. But what if you were normally at a 25, 35 or 45 and now you are at a 17? You could be labeled “normal” at 17 but possibly be at literally 1/2 of what you used to be. This is what we mean by subclinical/suboptimal.

Fortunately, in functional medicine we can screen for autoimmunity against multiple tissues in the body at once. Knowing an autoimmune reaction is causing your symptoms can remove the mystery and bring significant peace of mind. It is confirmation your health symptoms are real and proof you are not a whiner or hypochondriac.

We identify autoimmunity by testing for antibodies in the blood against a particular tissue. For instance, we can screen for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease that causes hypothyroidism, by testing for immune antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulin (TGB). Positive results mean autoimmunity is causing your hypothyroid symptoms of weight gain, depression, fatigue, constipation, cold hands and feet, and hair loss.

What is my favorite and really the only test you should use to screen for autoimmunity you ask. It is a lab test by Cyrex labs. They really are the only ones that do this type of testing, at least one that is any good.

Cyrex Labs tests for 24 different types of autoimmunity at once. The specific panel is called Array 5 Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen. It is more cost effective than testing for each autoimmunity individually, and Cyrex Labs tests are highly sensitive.

To do the test, simply ask us for the kit, take it to an approved blood draw center, and vioala, we will find out if you are having an autoimmune reaction.

If your test results are “positive” or “equivocal,” it means your immune system is attacking that tissue. You may not even have symptoms yet. This is a best-case scenario because managing your health with functional medicine can prevent the autoimmunity from progressing.

The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
is very true in the case of autoimmune.


Array 5 screens for the following autoimmunities:

  • Parietal cell and ATPase instrinsic factor: Stomach autoimmunity
  • ASCA, ANCA, and tropomyosin: Intestinal autoimmunity
  • Thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase: Thyroid autoimmunity
  • 21 hydroxylase (adrenal cortex): Adrenal autoimmunity
  • Myocardial peptide, alpha-myosin: Cardiac autoimmunity
  • Phospholipid platelet glycoprotein: Phospholipid autoimmunity
  • Ovary/Testes: Reproductive organ autoimmunity
  • Fibulin, collagen complex, arthritic peptide: Joint autoimmunity
  • Osteocyte: Bone autoimmunity
  • Cytochrome P450 (hepatocyte): Liver autoimmunity
  • Insulin, islet cell, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD): Pancreatic autoimmunity
  • GAD, myelin basic protein, asialoganglioside, alpha and beta tubulin, cerebellar, synapsin: Neurological autoimmunity

If you have no symptoms but a positive result, then you may be able to prevent the autoimmunity from expressing itself completely. If you have symptoms that correspond with a positive test result, other testing may help you track your condition. For instance, if you test positive for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, follow up with thyroid testing will track the severity.

Knowing you have an autoimmune reaction means you can halt its progression and prevent it from worsening. This can mean preventing or even reversing devastating and debilitating symptoms.

Remember…”an ounce of prevention…” you finish the sentence!

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy.



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